As an online learner in Humanizing Online Learning, I have taken away a deeper understanding and application of “presence” particularly within three aspects:
- Empathy is integral to the experience;
- Learning is social; and
- Learning and teaching can take place anywhere with anyone.
This course gave me the experience to feel, think, and learn as an online student in all its challenges and benefits. While I struggled a bit with tight deadlines and being able to thoughtfully respond to readings in a timely manner, I also walked away feeling that I have grown more in how I can better connect to my students by using presence, awareness, and empathy. While I had been introduced to Brene’ Brown’s TED Talks last year by my oldest daughter, the one on empathy struck me again. That empathetic component is so important in the learning environment because this is where we make connections and perspectives that not only support lifelong learning, but take us out of our own worldviews and into others’. In the online environment, this is evermore critical. I want to further my intention about building relationships among the learners and instructor by creating opportunities to enhance the presence beyond typical group activities and forums.
The idea that learning and teaching can take place anywhere with anyone allowed me to reach beyond normalized contexts and think about how to tap into the richness of our learners’ diversity to create experiences that enhance the perspectives of the individual ‘stories’, backgrounds, and knowledge that each bring to the experience. The diversity that the learners bring to the experience becomes an amazing opportunity to engage in.
In thinking about the learning experience as a social construct, I was excited to really feel this in this class through the use of VoiceThread in a way where I could be ‘me’. I am looking to further the design of my classes in ways that make it fun, relevant, and meaningful so that the learners expand their experiences of not just course content, but what they each bring to the table.
In summary, what is essential to designing and facilitating a humanized online course are creating meaningful and intentional opportunities to model and practice empathy, inclusion, and continuous presence throughout the learning experience.